Re:Find Distillery, out of Paso Robles, has a wicked cool new summer cocktail. Re:Find‘s Cucumber vodka gets dressed up with hand-crafted Yes dill simple syrup, fresh lemon juice, and a splash of Fever-Tree soda water (don’t forget the sprig of fresh dill). Serve in tall glass with lots of ice for the mother of all Summer-Chill cocktails. Re:Find Cucumber vodka is made with super pure vodka distilled from grapes and fresh local cucumbers–that’s it. All Fresh, all good. 750ml, 80 proof, 36.00
What is with Casillero del Diablo…do they feel a duty to prove to the world that they can beat thee socks off a lot of pricier rosés for just $11.00?? If you like dry red berry fruit and cherry, this new vintage is for you. Check out the cool “clean skin” label–no more paper labels falling off in the ice bucket. 11.00
Gotta love a nice Sauvignon Blanc–and Robert Mondavi for kick-starting it in the Napa Valley years ago by developing the “Fume Blanc” label. Years later, Mondavi still sets the standard for great California Sauvignon Blanc. Tweaking the Sauv Blanc with just a little Semillon brings richness and creaminess to this little beauty. 20.00
2015 Robert Mondavi Fume Blanc
Good old Jacob’s Creek. Always one of Australia’s reasonable and reliable labels, they’ve gone and upped the ante with some exotic wood on two of their most popular reds.
Just relaeased: the 2nd vintage of Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Shiraz and their Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon–which were already quite a mouthfull–and added a new element. After spending time in traditional toasted oak barrels, the wines are then finished in used whiskey barrels. The Cab is finished in Irish whiskey barrels and the Shiraz gets used Scotch barrels. The result is softer tannins, deeper richness, flavor that goes on and on. 20.00
Jacob’s Creek Double Barrel Shiraz and Double Barrel Cabernet Sauvignon
Brancott Estate’s Sauvignon Blanc may have been one of the first Kiwi Sauv. Blancs I ever tried. I remember being impressed–and I still am. The newly released 2016 vintage has that familiar clean crispness without the dominating grapefruit that sometimes characterizes NZ BSs. Put it in the ice bucket and let the hot weather come. 10.00
2015 Brancott Estate Flight Song Pinot Grigio is just made for a hot day by the pool. Grapes for Flight Song were harvested a little earlier than normal to capture the light, fresh quality of the fruit. The result is a wine with naturally lower sugar and alcohol content. That translates into about 20% fewer calories. Nice trade off. 15.00
On a recent trip to France, I fell in love with what might be called the Cinderella of French wine regions–Languedoc. While other areas such as Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, and Rhone get a lot of attention and glory, Languedoc has done the heavy lifting—producing fully a third of France’s wine.
Languedoc sprawls across the south of France from Spain in the West to Provence in the East, and bellies-up against the Mediterranean on the South. Arguably, France’s oldest wine region, ancient Greeks and Romans planted vineyards in Languedoc and its wines came to be prized by kings and queens, princes, and popes.
So if Languedoc has been so consequential to French wine, why has it been so late in gaining our attention on this side of the pond? (And it has been getting our attention–with about a two hundred percent increase in imports over the last five years.) The answer lies buried in history.
With the industrialization of Europe in the late 19th century and the rise of a middle class, demand for wine increased enormously. And because of the ideal growing conditions in Languedoc, growers ramped up production to cope with demand—essentially trading quality for quantity by shifting over to making bulk wine (vin de table). Nice for the thirsty masses in Paris but not so much for Languedoc’s historic reputation for great wine.
A hundred years later times have changed—and with it, peoples’ tastes. The public began to expect more than generic plonk from big coops, and that expectation opened the door for small growers to start making their own wines—wines with tradition and quality. A sort of wine renaissance came over Languedoc, and today it is treasure chest of regional varietals produced in authentic style.
Red varietals like grenache, syrah, mourvedre, cinsault, and carignan dominate and they are generally blended in some combination. The same reds are used to produce roses. France produces about a quarter of the world’s rose. Languedoc accounts for a third of that.
Whites include grenache blanc, marsanne, roussanne, piquepoul, and vermentino. The crisp acidity of many Languedoc whites make them ideal matches for the wonderful local seafood—especially the oysters and mussels lining the nearby coast. And as for sparkling wines, Languedoc was making bubbly a hundred years before the monks in Champagne—Mon Dieu!
Languedoc is still a Cinderella appellation—but today she has transformed herself into the belle of the ball.
Steve Prati, Franklin-based wine consultant
Four to Try
Le Jade Picpoul de Pinet, $12.00
90+ Rosé de Languedoc, $13.00
Domaine de Familenque, $15.00
Gerard Bertrand Tautavel red blend, $17.00
Mourvedre (aka mataro and monastrell) is a traditional red varietal in Languedoc—and many other parts of Europe. Generally used for blending—it is the “M” in “GSM” (Grenache/Syrah/Mourvedre.)
Mourvedre brings body and texture to the mix along with flavors of dark fruit, pepper, and smoke. The dark-skinned grapes are high in tannin so the juice is often given extra time barrel time for mellowing.
Mourvedre-based wines can vary greatly depending on where they are made—and they are made everywhere from Europe to Australia, to California. If you are a fan of big wines like cabernet sauvignon, there is a good chance that you will fall for this robust grape with so many names.
Rutherford Ranch 2015 Reserve Chardonnay is aged sur lies–on depleted yeast (sounds odd but the process adds flavor and depth to the finished wine.) The end result is a rich, buttery chardonnay with a lingering finish. 24.00
2016 Rutherford Ranch Sauvigon Blanc is fresh out of the gate and displaying a mouthful of clean, crisp citrus and tropical fruit. Perfect summer dinner wine. 20.00
Red blends are catching fire. Predator is a big, juicy, jammy combination of Lodi Petite Sirah, Zinfandel, and Malbec. Rich, silky spice makes Predator a great candidate from grilled meats or savory tomato-based dishes. And its a deal: 16.00
Forgotten how good a nice merlot can be? 2014 Rutherford Ranch Merlot earned its great ratings with a mouth-watering combination of chocolate and dark plum flavors carried on soft tannins. 20.00